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Scott Bruun: Wyden and the Politics of a Bad Iran Deal

Wednesday, August 19, 2015


We live in a hyper-partisan era of “identity” politics. An era of fevered moralism. An era where people are quick to be offended when others don’t conform to a given world-view. An era where every issue is perceived to have life or death, “existential,” consequences.

For politicians, this means there’s little opportunity for cross-over appeal. You’re either with us, or against us. You’re either “courageous,” or you’re a “chump.” Sadly, many politicians perpetuate this. Instead of leading public opinion, they follow it. Sure, this exacerbates public cynicism. But hey, it makes it a lot easier to get re-elected, right?

Just ask Mayor Hales.

Ron Wyden was my congressman for 7 years, and has now been my senator for 20. I have never voted for him. Chances are, I never will. Yet in my mind, Wyden deserves real credit for his political courage in several areas – including free trade and now Iran. Courage that stands in stark contrast to other “leaders” in Oregon and around the country.

Senator Wyden has expressed significant doubts about the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), more commonly known as the “Iran deal.” Wyden’s doubts are well-founded. It’s a bad deal, after all.

Really bad.

The deal gives Iran the ability to procure arms in five years, build ballistic missiles in eight, and begin arming those missiles with nuclear warheads in ten. The deal eliminates all sanctions and gives Iran immediate access to $150 billion in cash, while also clearing the way for a comprehensive nuclear “energy” program. The enforcement and inspection mechanisms are toothless. And for all of this, the deal does not provide release for four Americans currently held hostage by Iran.

For the Mullahs of Tehran, it’s a great deal. It frees-up resources and allows the regime to advance its generational war, directly and through proxies like Hezbollah, against the “Great Satan” (you and me) and our “Zionist” allies.

For the Obama Administration, it seems to be a “deal” for the sake of a deal only. For Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, for “historical legacy” purposes, the fact that they made a deal is more important than what the deal actually does. Simply put, the Iran deal is politics over policy.

Yet many of our elected leaders, including Senator Merkley and Congressman Blumenauer, still argue that any kind of “agreement” with Iran is a good thing. We haven’t had diplomatic relations with Iran since the hostage crisis in 1979, so the very fact that we can now produce an accord must be positive, right?

Or so the thinking goes.

For many, the Iran deal would be a good thing. Good for European Union bankers and arms merchants. Good for Russian natural gas oligarchs and Chinese fighter plane manufacturers. In fact, the Middle Eastern arms race that the deal ignites would be a good thing for any company or country that has financial interests in weapon sales.

The deal helps arm Iran. With that, it would also encourage arms buildups in Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia as these countries struggle to maintain a regional balance-of-power. Then there’s Israel. Does anyone think that Israel will sit passively while the rest of the region arms to the teeth?

How would all this play out? Of course no one knows for sure. But while we wait and watch, there’s a word they should consider adding to next year’s national spelling bee: conflagration.

Congress will spend August in recess, then address Iran when it returns in September. Oregon’s congressional delegation will have ample opportunity to study the deal (it’s only 150 pages) and hear from constituents. The pressure on our delegation to support the deal will be strong. Sentiment-over-substance groups like MoveOn.org will continue to orchestrate campaigns against any wavering congressional Democrat – especially influential members like Ron Wyden.

Even though Wyden has been a reliable voice for just about every left-of-center cause that’s come his way during 34 years of congressional service, he must still contend with his party’s absolutist wing on the Iran issue. If Wyden does hold firm, if he’s willing to put sound judgement ahead of the fevered moralism of left-wing sentiment, he’ll be considered “chump” by many.

Yet that’s what leaders have to do. Leaders are required to make hard choices, even when those choices are not popular. Leaders have to deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it to be. Ron Wyden’s view on Iran may not conform to Portland’s prevailing political sentiment. To those whose world-view comes from the window of a local organic coffee shop, Wyden may soon be the “chump.”

For the rest of us though, Wyden’s clear-headed view on Iran, and his willingness to stand firm despite public pressure, should be seen as a badge of courage.

Scott Bruun is a fifth-generation Oregonian and recovering politician. He lives with his family in the 'burbs', yet dutifully commutes to Portland every day where he earns his living in public affairs with Hubbell Communications


Related Slideshow: The Eight Political Types

What political type are you? The Pew Research Center says most Americans fall into eight groups. Can you find your match?

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Steadfast Conservatives

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If you keep saying “I don’t get it, I don’t see myself as any of the types,” you might just be a Bystander, which means you're the person on the sidelines. You're more interested in celebrities like Jay-Z and Beyonce (are they really getting a divorce?) than government and politics. Noteworthy that Bystanders don't registered to vote, but do love the outdoors.  Some 66 percent of bystanders consider themselves an “outdoor person.”

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